In Praise of the WSJ Ed Page—No, Seriously!

You know that an analysis of modern politics is careening toward "false equivalence" territory when it says that "extremists of the right and left" are, in their symmetrical and indistinguishable way, messing things up for the rest of us.

I've kept looking for a particular data-point that would substantiate the idea that today's dysfunction really is symmetrical: the moment when "extremists on the right" would crack down on one of their own for rigid and inflexible views. There have been inklings: for instance, Newt Gingrich's line early in the campaign that "right-wing social engineering" via the Ryan Budget was as bad as the left-wing kind; also, numerous Republicans' attempts to distance themselves from pure birtherism. Or the general GOP admission that Sarah Palin was perhaps not the best possible choice for VP. Jon Huntsman's "call me crazy" Tweets and comments don't quite count, since the more such things he said, the less he seemed connected to the party itself. A similar "he's not really speaking for the party" discount must be applied to Ron Paul's consistent and admirable critique of neocon warmongering.

But now there is an illustration! The Wall Street Journal's own editorial page -- the heart of the heart of the brain of the movement -- has cautioned a freshman Republican Congressman about the know-nothingness exemplified by his attempt to gut a crucial part of Census Bureau surveys.

You also have to admire and love the way the Journal couched the point, emphasis added:

Every now and then the GOP does something that feeds the otherwise false narrative of political extremism....

Since the political class is attempting to define the GOP as insane and redefine "moderation" as anything President Obama favors, Republicans do themselves no favors by targeting a useful government purpose.[!!!]

Artfully put. Still, good for the Journal in speaking up on behalf of actual knowledge, which a government agency happens to produce. Plus, among the good items on the WSJ editorial section yesterday:

- Reprinting a properly astringent Forbes item by Rich Karlgaard (who fwiw is an experienced Cirrus SR22 pilot) on the decline of America as displayed by the Facebook IPO. Eg, as point #3 of 7:

 3. Facebook left nothing for the common investor. The insider pig pile of PE firms and celebrity Silicon Valley angels took it all...When Microsoft when public in 1986, its market value was $780 million. Microsoft's market value would rise more than 700 times in the next 13 years. Bill Gates made millionaires of thousands of ordinary public investors. When Google went public in 2004 at a $23 billion valuation, it left less on the table for you and me. Still, if you had invested in Google then and held your stock, you would be sitting atop a 9x return. Zuckerberg and his Facebook friends took it all.

- Bonus point, also from yesterday's WSJ: an editorial that is the strongest evidence yet that Chief Justice John Roberts is feeling the heat and suspecting that he will be cast as the modern Roger Taney (right -- look it up) if, after what he did with Citizens United, he overrules the health-care law. The evidence is the editorialists' entreaties that Roberts pay no attention, none at all!, to accusations "that if the Court overturns any of the law, he'll forever be defined as a partisan 'activist.'"

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.

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